The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has some amazing events for you to sink your teeth into no matter what you’re craving. Every year I make it my mission to find a couple of events to try out dishes I otherwise mightn’t order. It’s excellent hunting grounds for strange and unusual eats.
You can imagine my excitement when I came across an event at Northern Git titled “Git into Offal and Beer”. Advertised as a feast of 11 courses of offal (organ meat) with matched beers and a single malt whisky for the tidy sum of $75 per head, my interest was piqued.
Offal is the internal organs of animals. I realise that many people (my mum included) can’t stand the thought of eating entrails (“It’s just OFF-al” she cries) and innards but I personally like to subscribe to the “waste not want not” theory when it comes to food. If I’m going to eat one part of the animal, certainly it makes sense to try other parts too?
I do however have my limits, one of them is tripe, the stomach lining of a cow. I’m not a fan of the texture, the taste and frankly the look of it creeps me out. So when I saw tripe on the menu my stomach sank (pun totally intended).
Everything else sounded delicious! Without further ado, here’s what I thought of my offal feast at Northern Git.
The first course was split up into four dishes. Braun (headcheese or presswurst) which is a kind of sliced terrine of offcuts pressed into a jelly and sliced thinly. The other dishes were Ox heart, Pigs Trotters and Black Pudding, which I’ve already tried and loved!. These were combined with a Blonde, a Honey beer and a Kolsch.
I’m a big fan of pressed meats and cold cuts so the braun straight out of the gates was a crowd and personal pleaser. Wonderfully spiced, sliced so thin it fell apart in your mouth and served in a vierge reduction that left a tangy taste lingering on your tongue. They started well.
The black pudding was made in-house and so fresh. You could tell it wasn’t sitting around for ages going dry and I really appreciated the garlic and onion combined with the juicy blood soaked oatmeal. Seriously, I wish black pudding were a more popular breakfast dish here cos it definitely beats bacon in my books. Controversial? Maybe! It’s seriously good on toast, but I digress …
The surprise dish of the four was the Ox Heart. I’d never tried heart from such a large animal before, having had chicken countless times. I guess I’d expected something spongy and chewy. Instead the dish was like a rare, tender steak. Not chewy but with a bit of bounce and no lingering aftertaste which was excellent washed down with a blonde beer. You could fool many people into eating heart serving something so delicately presented atop a fresh salad.
Unfortunately the pigs trotters were so hidden amongst radish salad and pickled carrot on toast that I couldn’t really get a picture good enough to determine what they were. Tasty enough, but I’m not sure we can count feet as offal, or can we?
Course two was Lambs Tongue, Tripe and spicy glazed Chicken Feet plus three more beers. A ruby, a lager and an ESB. The hobgoblin legendary ruby … now that was a delicious beer. Unfortunately, as designated driver I did pass over my other ones (after a quick sip) to the other half to enjoy. No complaints heard from over there that night!
So let me go from best to worst with this course. I’ve never had lambs tongue before, I’ve had ox tongue and even cooked it myself (oh so gross) but I’ve never even imagined eating one from a lamb before.
Delicious. So. Very. Delicious. It may have been the incredible cabernet sauvignon vinaigrette it was served with but I honestly expected something far different than what we had. It was tender, juicy and had a lamby taste that wasn’t overbearing but subtle and sweet. It fell apart on your fork like a slow cooked meat. Positively mouth watering!
The chicken’s feet were nice. They had a spicy, slightly smoky and sticky glaze and fell apart easily upon eating. I am a fan of gelatinous feet but it’s pretty easy to get great wings just like them at many of Melbourne’s fab yum cha places. Also see aforementioned comment on my thoughts about feet not really being offal. I did enjoy their sticky gooey sauce though.
… I still don’t like tripe. I tried. My neighbour next to me, thought that the tripe was the best thing he’d eaten since childhood and mopped up every bit off the plate that I couldn’t. So there ARE people out there who like it. Even a smoky bacon, truffle, lemon and pecorino cheese sauce couldn’t seduce my tastebuds. I just don’t like the taste, it also has the consistency of chewy snot. There I said it. I’m not even sorry.
That was cathartic!
Course three was definitely the ‘piece de resistance’. Haggis and a roasted half pigs head.
I won’t drawl too much on the pigs head as I’ve written a long story before on how much I enjoyed the one from now defunct Josie Bones. It was very good though, the meat was sweet, the skin crispy without too much salt and serving it with a chilli vinaigrette was inspired. There was many an oooh and an ahhh when it was served which must be rewarding to hear from the kitchen.
While I’ve still got your interest I really need to tell you about the haggis. Traditionally it’s sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with oatmeal, herbs, onion and suet encased in the stomach of the same animal. mmm Apparently you’re also meant to split it open and pour whisky into it before serving. Whisky it up we did, also adding some to a jus served alongside.
It was definitely a crowd pleaser. Aside from looking impressive I have to say that they did a great job of adding just the right amount of herbs and spices into the mix, without it becoming overpowering to the ‘meat’ flavours. The whisky added a sharp yet sweet overtone to the mix which really made it all the more palatable. I never thought I’d rave on so much about a sheeps stomach stuffed with organs but there you go!
According to the other half the single malt whisky that went alongside was the perfect accompaniment, though I do wonder if anything alongside that many beers and impending meat coma would have sufficed. Looks like it’s single malt whisky’s for an easy birthday gift from now on!
Onto dessert. If you’re still reading and haven’t yet dashed off to secure yourself a stomach or tongue to cook for tea, you’ll agree with me that a dessert of apple and suet dumplings after all these dishes sounds rather incongruous. There was a twist.
It was served with a wafer of something resembling fried skin, which we were to guess it’s origin. In keeping with the night’s theme I suggested that perhaps it was pig uterus lining, but the table were determined that it was either some kind of foreskin or genital skin. Read aforementioned comment on how many beers had been consumed ;).
It was an ear. After all that it a pigs ear, de-cartilaged, steamed and roasted till crisp. It was delicious, but I’ve honestly never heard the comment “gee I wish it were penis skin” before.
I guess that’s what happens when you keep upping the bar with amazing offal dishes, people get greedy.
The staff we lovely all night, the chef (Michael Slade) came out and had a chat and asked questions of the guests and the shared platters of dishes led to excellent conversations, lots of laughter and a lot of cheek. Not just from the pig’s head. I had a real blast!
Note: For the sticklers out there, yep that is indeed only 10 dishes. It was more than enough in the end but I do wonder what they pulled out of the 11. I forgot to ask. Perhaps it was foreskin after all 😉